Sailor Speak of the Week – Very Pistol

A Webley & Scott Mk. III 1″ flare gun



  • A pistol which fires cartridges containing colored flares.


19th century. Named after its inventor and naval officer, Samuel W. Very.


Today, this is known as a flare gun. Generally to be fired to signal distress, but some flares can also be used for illumination. I’d caution anyone against pointing this at someone and firing a flare at them. It’s a pyrotechnic device, and is like shooting a firework at someone. The very pistol fires something that’s very hot. Get it? Ha…ha…ha. In all seriousness, you could severely injure or kill someone.

Also, in many countries, falsely sending off a distress signal is a crime that carries heavy fines and/or prison time. It’s not funny. DON’T DO IT! Unless you’re seriously in trouble.


Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport Museum.

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